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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Postdoc Social and Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen

17.11.2023, by Namkje Koudenburg

Deadline: 03 December, 2023

Logo: University of Groningen, RUG
Logo: University of Groningen, RUG

Namkje Koudenburg (social psychology) and Lise Jans (environmental psychology) are advertising a postdoc position on “Promoting constructive discourse in public participation panels” at the University of Groningen. The postdoc will be part of a large European consortium of research and governmental partners who jointly aim to improve collaborations and communication between governments and citizens.

Deadline: 3 December.

The Social Psychology and Environmental Psychology groups of the University of Groningen invite applications for a postdoctoral researcher position. This new position is part of the project “Speak Up!”, funded by the European Regional Development Fund: Interreg North Sea. The successful candidate will work mainly on collaborative projects together with Dr Namkje Koudenburg and Dr Lise Jans. The candidate will be part of a large international consortium of research (e.g, Hannah Arendt Institute, Belgium) and governmental partners (e.g., municipality Groningen, province of Drenthe, city of Vaxjo, Sweden; city of Oldenburg, Germany), who jointly aim to improve collaborations and communication between governments and citizens.

Project description
Participation panels enable citizens to participate in important decision making (e.g. about environmental policies). Key to having fair and effective public participation panels (in participative democracies), is the inclusion of a representative sample of the diverse population. This includes diversity in demographic (e.g. social, ethnic, educational) backgrounds and opinions. But diversity can complicate discussions and threaten the solidarity within discussion groups: There’s a risk of conflict and polarization into different opinion camps, or certain views taking the upper hand while others feel alienated, which may ultimately result in reduced trust in governmental institutions.

In this project we examine how to create a discussion environment in which distinct views are valued, which strengthen, rather than threaten the identification of people with their discussion groups, city, and (local) government. Building on theorizing on bottom-up social identity formation, the conversations are perfect starting points for developing shared identity. The success of participation panels relies on their ability to recognize and value different backgrounds and viewpoints. Importantly, here, similarity is not what drives our solidarity, but it’s what every unique individual can bring. This project aims to examine how participation panels can be set up to enable the integration of diverse positions, and its influence on acceptance of the specific policies and internalization of broader policy aims.

In close collaboration with governmental partners that organize public participation panels on sustainability and other topics, we examine how to promote constructive dialogue among people with diverse viewpoints. In a ‘living lab’ we test the effects of different set-ups in terms of context, structure, and content of the conversation.

To examine this, we will start with a diagnostic phase, in which we identify the key elements that promote constructive dialogue and/or prevent polarization in discussion groups. A second phase experimentally tests different elements in the context, structure, and content of the conversation to assess their impact on improving dialogue. In the final phase we co-develop and test an intervention, (in the form of a toolkit, training, or game) that can be used by involved project partners and other institutes to improve dialogue in public participation panels with high diversity.

In this project, you will be expected to:
● coordinate and organize the set-up of field studies among public participation panels in the Netherlands and Europe, more broadly
● lead a series of experimental laboratory studies
● collaborate closely with project partners (e.g. local governments), in order to conduct the research and to disseminate your findings in practice
● publish the results of your studies in international scientific journals, and present your studies at international conferences
● report the results to the consortium partners and formulate policy implications for how public participation panels need to be set up to optimally benefit from the diversity of their participants
● develop, together with project partners, an intervention to improve dialogue in public participation panels with high diversity
● upon discussion: the position may be expanded with some teaching activities in the Environmental Psychology group.

Please find all information about working at the University of Groningen and how to apply for this position here: